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December 21, 2014
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Radical, PRO senators argue over stance on Kirchnerism

UCR Senator Gerardo Morales enfuriates PRO’s Gabriela Michetti during yesterday’s session in the Senate.
By Tomás Brockenshire
Herald Staff

PRO senator rejects accusations of a pact with Kirchnerism to pass controversial bill

Senator Gerardo Morales (UCR) harshly accused Senator Gabriela Michetti (PRO) of helping the ruling Victory Front pass a controversial bill last night as part of a heated exchange that seemed to suggest tensions between the Radicals and Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri’s party at a time when speculation about a possible 2015 electoral alliance refuses to die down.

The two senators provided the biggest fireworks during a busy day in Congress yesterday, featuring discussions on bills in both the Senate and the Lower House that were put forward by the ruling Victory Front (FpV) and its allies.
Specifically, Morales accused Michetti of facilitating the passage out of committee of a bill that would nationalize the Madres de Plaza de Mayo University by “handing over” her seat on the Human Rights committee to the FpV so that it could achieve quorum on its own.

Morales characterized it as part of a series of legislative deals between the PRO and the FPV such as the transfer of the ex-ESMA and the monument to Christopher Columbus by the Government House.

Michetti furiously defended herself and denied that there had been any kind of pact between the FpV and the PRO.

The PRO representative demanded that Morales retract his accusations and underlined that it was “impossible for me to be able to predict how three committees would stack up 30 days before they met” and that none of the opposition blocs had taken the opportunity to take her seat despite her known interest in giving up her seat on the Human Rights committee. Michetti repeatedly denied the existence of a pact, saying that there was no evidence of such a deal and that it was beneath her to engage in “such spurious activity.”

A spokesperson for Senator Michetti, in conversation with the Herald, denied once again the existence of a deal, noting that Michetti’s resignation was irrelevant to how the committees were eventually put together and that her departure was not part of a “spurious pact to hide an act of corruption” such as the nationalization of the university.

Morales’ criticism was part of a larger attack on the approval issued on Tuesday night in the committee for the nationalization of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo University, in which he advised that the UCR will issue a written complaint against the approval on technical grounds relating to the number of senators present at the committee.

Nonetheless, the president of the FpV senate bloc, Miguel Ángel Pichetto, advised that the committee’s approval was valid and that “the issue can be voted on after the normal seven-day period.”

Legal Digest Approved

Despite the strong words to kick off the session, the Senate engaged in a far more tranquil session in which it approved the nomination of 10 supplemental judges for the Supreme Court and converted into law a Legal Digest which compiles approximately 33,000 norms, laws, decrees and international treaties into a single document specifying 3,353 laws.

The Digest was approved by the FpV and allies with 41 votes in favour, 14 against and the Broad Progressive Front (three votes) abstained. The UCR and others in the opposition had claimed that the document was incomplete and requested that it be sent to committee for further review. The draft had been approved by the Lower House in November and brings to completion an initiative first sent by the Executive Branch in July 2011.

The Digest, current to March 2013, was produced after two years of work in which laws were recategorized or struck down if considered abstract and attempts to bring order to a complicated labyrinth of norms which “will be available to those in the legal system as well as any common citizen” according to FpV Senator Aníbal Fernández.

Senators also gave their approval to Juan Manuel Abal Medina’s nomination as Ambassador to the Mercosur trading bloc and agreed to discuss the situation affecting Santiago del Estero province journalist Juan Pablo Suárez next Wednesday, given the possible application of Anti-Terrorism provisions against Suárez.

Suárez is facing accusations of sedition and inciting violence for his coverage of police protests in Santiago del Estero in December.

Pichetto (FpV) argued that there wasn’t enough information to address the matter yesterday following a request from Senator Norma Morandini (Córdoba’s Civic Front) that the Senate issue a statement.

Lower House Engaged

In addition to the activity in the Senate, the Lower House was engaged all day debating the government’s bill to prevent informal labour. At press time, the debate in the chamber continued but the bill was expected to pass on the back of FpV and allied votes in addition to qualified support from the UCR, the Broad Progressive Front and the Renewal Front. Assuming the bill is passed, it will become law following the Senate’s earlier unanimous support for the measure.

The same harmony however was missing in the Lower House, as the Workers’ Leftist Front (FIT) and Unión Popular blocs issued strong condemnation of the bill, likening it more to a reduction in taxes for employers. FIT Lawmaker Néstor Pitrola came out strongly against the bill and compared it to a Cavallo-era plan to reduce employer’s social security contributions.

The centre-right PRO took a predictably different stance, in which it emphasized the need to reduce taxes so as to generate more formal labour, although it would vote in favour of the law while also presenting objections to certain articles.

The bill, titled “Promotion of Registered Work and Prevention of Labour Fraud,” aims to grant full work benefits for 650,000 unregistered workers over the next two years. If successful, the plan would reduce under-the-table work from the current 33.5 percent to around 30 percent one year after the law is passed and to 28 percent in the second year of implementation.

To achieve that aim, the bills promotes registration of employees through temporarily reducing social security contributions and also punishes companies found to have violated the terms of labour laws with fines and the exemption from further taxbreaks or state subsidies.

@tbrockenshire
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